Tagliani signs on with Brian Herta Autosport

Driver Alex Tagliani is all smiles as he exits his car after placing second during the NAPA Auto...

Driver Alex Tagliani is all smiles as he exits his car after placing second during the NAPA Auto Parts 200 Nationwide Series NASCAR race in Montreal at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Aug 20, 2011. (ANDRE FORGET/QMI AGENCY)

Dean McNulty, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:36 PM ET

Alex Tagliani has agreed to a two-year deal with Bryan Herta Autosport — last season’s Indianapolis 500 winning team — that will start with the IZOD IndyCar season opener March 25 in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Tagliani, in a telephone interview Monday from the team’s Indianapolis headquarters, said it took months of negotiations to hammer out the fine details.

It is not the Montreal native’s first encounter with BHA.

Last season when Sam Schmidt Motorsports put Dan Wheldon in the No. 77 team car in place of Tagliani for the final two races of 2011, Tagliani was hired by BHA to drive for that team in the ill-fated Las Vegas race, where Wheldon was killed in a horrendous crash just 11 laps into the race.

Tagliani had qualified the BHA entry fourth on that day.

“In that short time we developed a bond that was very good,” Tagliani said of his new relationship with team owner Bryan Herta. “My relationship with Bryan was always very friendly and I felt from the beginning of our discussions, he wanted to me on his team.

“I am very pleased with this deal.”

For Herta it will be a change from 2011 where the team ran only two races — the Indy 500 with Wheldon and with Tagliani at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

For the early part of the 2012 season, Tagliani said, BHA will be a one-car team with the hope that a second car could be added for some races.

Tagliani, however, is no stranger to start-ups, or single-car teams.

“Remember I was at Rocketsports (owned by Paul Gentilozzi) when it was a start-up and we only had one car at the start of the 2003 season,” he said. “Nobody thought we would even qualify that year in St. Petes but when ended up on the second row.”

And Tagliani is coming off three seasons of one-car teams with FAZZT Racing and SMM.

He said he thinks the BHA outfit is the best of all of those.

“This is a very serious team that is committed to full-time IndyCar Series with the will to win,” Tagliani said.

Tagliani, who became fast friends with Wheldon while working together at Indianapolis, where he became the first Canadian to win the pole position, said he is very happy to a step into the BHA car that Wheldon tested and helped develop for IndyCar and Lotus.

“It’s a legacy that we can continue for Dan,” he said.

BHA was the first to ink a contract with the British manufacturer. It was operate as a factory team in IndyCar.

“I am very flattered by the confidence Lotus has in the team and in me,” Tagliani said.

His only concern is that Lotus is a bit late at getting in the game, with Honda and Chevrolet, already a year ahead on developing power plants for North America’s top open-wheel series.

“We have a lot of work to do, because this engine has not had as much testing like the other two manufacturers,” Tagliani said.

As for sponsorship, Tagliani said that the team has already agreed to terms for support from his longtime backer Bowers & Wilkins, the Toronto-based electronic entertainment giant.

“There will be some more sponsor announcements over the next few weeks,” he said. “B&W have been great partners for me and I hope we can continue that relationship.”

Tagliani, who will be guided at BHA by Toronto native Todd Malloy, a veteran IndyCar engineer, was welcomed to the team by Herta.

“We are very proud to have Alex Tagliani join our team for our first full season of IndyCar competition,” Herta said in a team release. “He brings a wealth of experience and enthusiasm to the program, and is the perfect fit for us and our sponsor partners. Together with Todd Malloy and Brian Page in engineering, and the Don Lambert led crew, Alex has the full support of a very talented group of professionals behind him.”

Canadaians still waiting for similar deals for 2012 are Paul Tracy — the 2003 Champ Car champion — and the 2011 IndyCar rookie of the year James Hinchcliffe.

Word is that Hinchcliffe could be close to a deal with Andretti Autosport, while Tracy is negotiating with several teams for a full time ride.


Videos

Photos